Professor and students conduct groundbreaking research in Panama
|Photos courtesy of Erik Lindquist
For 14 years, Erik Lindquist, associate professor of biology and environmental science (pictured here, with the red helmet), has conducted international research on the rare Panamanian golden frog, a species nearing extinction due to a rapidly spreading fungal disease. He and six Messiah biology students spent January in Panama studying the disease’s effects on these tree-dwelling amphibians. To search for the sparsely populated amphibians, the team — conditioned by months of intensive physical training — scaled tree heights of up to 100 feet.
Approximately 2,500 members of the species have been preserved, but Lindquist says, “Part of our research involves developing a vaccine for the species in the wild. The animals in captivity can’t be reintroduced into their natural habitats without it.” In addition to making progress toward combating the disease, Lindquist’s team discovered a new salamander species and delivered two samples to the Smithsonian Institute in Panama for official documentation.
Such research impacts the science community but also inspires undergraduate students to pursue biological conservation. Lindquist says, “It’s not difficult to teach biology students to fall in love with the world they study.”
— Anne-Marie Robinson '08